Re-useful #5: pallet project the third

I knew that I needed to build some planters for my saffron crocus corms, and had seen a few different pallet planters on pinterest that had given me a some ideas.The pallets I received were all different sizes and designs, so the first thing I did was to sort them into piles according to their type. This informed my final designs.

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I decided to use the heaviest pallets with curved edges for my planters. They looked like this:

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First thing I did was to cut out the middle section:

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Set that aside for later. Now, use plates to fasten the two end pieces together. I used rectangles on either end, and corners on the middle centre, two each top and bottom:

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Now attach your lining. I tried two different styles here, one hessian sacking, the other landscaping fabric I dug up from my allotment. I prefer the landscaping fabric overall, as the hessian doesn’t seem particularly sturdy.

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You can use whatever you have to hand here – small screws, nails or upholstery tacks, or easiest of all, a staple gun if you have one! I don’t, so used a combination of screws and nails, as came to hand!

Now go back to that middle bit and cut away two of the crossbars. You can measure and cut these to size, or do as I did, attach first and saw to size afterwards for a perfect fit!

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Use long screws to attach these to the top-most ends. These should trap your lining as well as making the whole structure sturdier.

Now, the rest is optional, but I added additional structure into the ends of my last planter:

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I also used a couple of old leather belts to make handles on each end, as these will be easier to move to the front gates once they are in bloom!

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Then I used the stencil font on word to print out the words SAFFRON CROCUS onto plain paper. I attached a couple of strips of wide double-sided tape to the back before using my exacto knife to cut them out:

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 This made it especially easy to spray paint the planters, as the double-sided tape adhered to the wood.

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And there you have it! Oh, and that leftover piece from the middle? Ideal for raising plan pots off the ground to deter slugs and protect a little from ground frosts.

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Waste not, want not

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I’m on a bit of a waste-not kick of late. I don’t know whether it’s the lack of money in my bank account (I’ve yet to be paid for a single job I have done since going freelance at the end of March) or the cost of compost for my veggie garden that has done it, but I’m suddenly aware of every single thing we throw away. I’ve started a Bokashi composting system (these guys are good, if you’re interested), so I can finally compost my leftovers, post-stock bones, and the various other food bits that can’t go into the regular compost bin or out to feed the friendly ducks that seem to have adopted us. Everything we throw away is subject to the three Qus before it hits the rubbish bin: can it be re-used? IF NOT, can if be upcycled? IF NOT can it be recycled? I have a sizeable collection of homemade mini-greenhouses for my seedlings next year, all neatly paired up with a plastic meat-tray for the base and a salad/stir-fry tray for the lid. And thanks to pinterest I have a supply of funnels, shovels and storage containers made from empty milk cartons.

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The ducks, sitting on our front door step

This weekend, I bottled up this year’s sloe gin. I was left with a pile of gin-soaked sloes, which I decanted into red wine to make sloe port. Before making the port, though, I removed the stones, to make the third stage of the process, sloe truffles, easier at the other end. I was left with a pile of sloe stones, and no clue what to do with them.

Googling was not helpful. No-one was offering advice regarding how to use sloe stones after the gin-making process – most folk seem to just add them to the compost. But I did read that the stones themselves release a lovely almond flavour, if left to soak long enough. Which went a long way to explaining why my instincts had led me to add almond essence to this year’s sugar syrup prior to sweetening my gin. (I used this recipe this year, rather than my usual all-in recipe, which can produce a sickly sweet gin.) I decided to try something out, just to see what happens: I added the stones to a half-empty bottle of wine vinegar.

Anyone have any suggestions as to what this might produce? I’m hoping for a slightly fruity vinegar that I can use in winter stews. I know I might have to reduce it with some sugar after steeping to achieve this, but that’s fine! I’m going on an elderflower forage as soon as the sun comes out, then when the berries come in, I have plans to make elderberry vinegar. So if this doesn’t work out, I’ll still have plenty of fruity vinegar to be going on with…

Stash-busting nightdress – a make-do make!

A couple of weeks ago I picked up Conall at a funny angle and heard a distinct ripping sound. With a sigh, I retreated to the bathroom mirror, to inspect the enormous tear that had appeared across the back of my nightdress. It wasn’t something that could be fixed without replacing the whole back panel. The nighty had had it.

Not having the cash for a new one, I delved in my stash for some suitable fabric. This lovely lightweight blue and yellow stripe is wonderfully sunny and summery, and was given to me by my Grandma in a parcel of materials she felt sure I’d use. I had no pattern, so I used the existing nightdress. I replaced the elasticated waist with an adjustable cord-threaded lace, leftover materials from an adjustable-length petticoat I made a few years ago…

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I was so happy with the result – a lovely new nighty for an hour’s sewing, and much prettier than any I’ve seen on the high street!

40 minute stash-buster: tea-towel organiser

I’m sure I’m not the only person who spent Easter have a jolly good sort-out. Amongst other things, I found a stack of tea towels, set aside as just too nice to be used to dry dishes, and amongst them were a pair of Hope and Greenwood tea towels I was given as a gift. As I wondered what I could use them other than dish-drying, inspiration struck.

Since the boys arrived, we have constantly found ourselves scrabbling to find a handy home for their shoes, socks, hats, bubbles – general outdoorsy bits and bobs, as well as our own slippers, my gardening gloves, welly socks, etc etc etc. I thought an organiser to hand beside the front door would answer all our needs, and look pretty to boot!

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To make your own, you will need:

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2 tea towels and some doweling or cane cut to size. You don’t have to have two identical tea towels – one plain for the back and a patterned front would work nicely!

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Scissors, cotton, some cord or ribbon, pins, and not shown: a tape measure/ruler and sewing machine.

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Begin by unpicking the top of your backing towel. If you have two identical towels, check the size, and use the slightly narrower of the two for the back.

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Once you’ve unpicked the top, fold the hem back over the cane, and pin in place. Machine across, leaving the ends open to slide the cane through.

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Now, measure your top tea towel and divide into three roughly equal sections. If, like mine, your towels have a pattern that looks better divided up slightly unevenly, go for it! Unless you’re making your divider for a particular purpose, in which case you’ll need to stick strictly to your measurements.

Unpick the side and bottom seams – leave the top in place. Hem the top of the two lower sections.

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Measure and mark the base tea towel with three equal sections, line up the three sections you’ve cut and hemmed, and fold downwards to pin in place. Sew with two rows of machine stitch approx. 1/4″ apart.

Now pin the side seams and machine top-stitch up both sides. Where you’ve unpicked the seams you should find you’ve a pressed-under edge, which will give you a neat finish. You should also have bought yourself a little give for the pockets – line up the edges at this point and don’t worry about the top lying flat against the back.

Now measure across the tea towel and split into three again (or, again, more/less if you have a different or particular use in mind). Machine top-stitch up each of the two dividing lines to create three pockets for each section.

Finally, push your dowel through the seamed top. If you’re using dowel you may want to drill a couple of holes to feed your cord through for a professional finish, or create grooves with a file to hold your cord in place. I used cane, and used a hand saw to create a split in either end, then slid the cord through before knotting.

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And voila – one organiser!

I think this is great for storing the odds and ends we need daily by the front door, but it could also be used in pretty much any room in the house…

  • Hang it on the back of the bathroom door to hold toiletries or make-up…
  • Or in the kitchen to hold your most-used cooking utensils.
  • Make one for a new mum, to hang on the cot end/cot-top-changer for nappies and paraphernalia…
  • Or use a single tea towel, fold up the bottom and weight the top to create a handy remote-control store.
  • Hang one in a wardrobe to keep your flip-flops and ballet-flats in pairs…
  • Or to hold rolled-up belts, socks and ties.
  • Make one for a crafter to hold their haberdashery goods…
  • Or for a knitter, with dedicated pockets to hold needles, yarn and patterns.
  • Use twine in place of cord and make one for a gardener to hang in the shed holding their twine, secateurs, gloves, a trowel and hand-fork, seed packets, a dibber…
  • Or find a tea towel with a herb theme and make double pockets to hold seed packets alongside herb plants – could be hung outside or inside depending on space, for a handy vertical kitchen herb garden!

Let me know how you would use it!

Over the rainbow!

I have wanted these rainbow-coloured storage baskets from Jojo Maman Bebe since the moment I first saw them. They have been on the baby wishlist since before the boys were born, whilst I have waited patiently for them to enter each sale over the last year, only to be disappointed. And still I have refused to spend £45 on toy storage just because, well, it’s pretty!

But then, thanks to my new addiction to pinterest, I stumbled across this completely divine basket tutorial:

And I thought to myself, hang on – perhaps I could make these instead?

My first attempt used too many different weight wools, proved once again that I really struggle to follow patterns, and left me with a floppy, misshapen basket which I was delighted to discover was the perfect fit to line my yarn WIP basket. No more catching on errant wicker = result, albeit not the intended…

My second attempt worked out much better as I worked by feel rather than following the tutorial to the letter, but I was still getting a slight step in my rings. Probably of no concern to anyone but me, and a good way to use up some extra balls of wool I had lying about from a previous project, this basket is now in use storing some of the twins’ cuddly toy collection.

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The handles still didn’t seem secure enough to withstand baby paws, but I had had an idea to fix that. After two practice rounds, I finally felt ready to tackle the rainbow!

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The wool for these cost me £25.06 from local online yarnery The Wool Warehouse, plus they took a couple of evenings to make, BUT I got three of a similar, useful size out of this, rather than three odd sizes that might have proved too big or small for purpose.

CIMG9279I have enough yarn left for at least one more basket, should I need it. I made the lining and handles from my stash – bits left over from the book sling, in fact, with the fab dinosaur pattern. I can’t resist a dinosaur!

I used two strands of Stylecraft Special chunky held together in Lipstick, Camel*, Lemon, Meadow, Aster, Royal and Lavender. I would have like to use Patons Fab Big, as my practice rounds had shown that this created a lovely, firm structure, but they didn’t have the colours I was looking for – in fact, I was surprised how difficult it proved to get hold of brightly coloured  super chunky wools. Most seem to be quite neutral, tweedy colours – perfect for blankets or cowls, but no fun at all for a baby’s room!

CIMG9278I think these would be a great way to turn old t-shirts-turned-yarn into storage for the kids – perhaps a good use for some of those threadbare fitted jersey cot sheets? And plarn versions would be really great for storing outdoor water-play or sand box toys in the shed, or even for sorting the recycling…

Not worth £45, perhaps, but most certainly worth the effort!

*The camel, was actually a bit too beigey for the rainbow, so I swapped in some coral merino dk I had left from a previous project, holding 4 strands instead of 2.

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Slippers for my sweets

Earlier this week I noticed that the boys’ feet were getting rather chilly. A root through the hosiery drawer turned out one pair of slippers, but not a second. After a few minutes trawling through ebay I realised that even to buy a pair second hand, with the extortionate P&P costs involved these days, would cost me around a fiver, which seems daft when I haven’t really a fiver to spare. So I set to work trawling the interwebs for some simple slipper tutorials.

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My first pair of slippers, and the pair which wee Hal is currently sporting, were based on this tutorial. Simple, quick and effective, these were made from a felted baby cardigan that I bought off ebay without realising that the seller had already shrunk it down in the wash – and so it was too small for my boys. I repurposed some elastic cut from a jersey fitted sheet  which gave a pleasing finished effect as well as putting an existing scrap to use. I’m reasonably pleased with the results.

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However, whilst searching for slipper patterns, I also found these little beauties. I was all ready to buy this pattern, when I realised that it was sold out! So, I’ve been devising my own pattern loosely based on the design. The first pair came out a little wonky, but the second pair are shaping up well – and proving an excellent use for scraps of felted wool too!

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Project: repurposed broken clothes horse book sling

I’ve been struggling to find an accessible display option for our picture books for some time. I had tried book ends, but they looked so messy. I tried a rectangular basket, but it took up a LOT of space. I found a lot of potential ideas online, but they mostly required the use of wall space, and whilst we do have a little empty wall space, our delightfully ancient walls are solid as iron and rock (after several hundred years both wooden beams and bricks seem to repel even electric drills!), so wall-mounted solutions are not really an option. I was fast running out of ideas.

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After a failed attempt at a table-top bookstand made out of cereal boxes (not sturdy enough, but will be great for my sewing patterns and PDFs!) I was busily about the bedtime nappy change last week when I spotted one half of a broken clothes airer which I have mounted on over-door hooks on the wardrobe to provide some extra hanging space for baby clothes and towels. Inspiration hit – the other half of the same airer was in the shed, and would make a great frame for a book sling.

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All I needed for this was the frame and some fabric. To make things extra difficult, I decided I wanted to use some lovely Michael Miller dinosaur-print fabric I bought from Plush Addict last year for the front panels– it had been sitting in my stash awaiting a project that would do the gorgeous pattern justice. Just using the star-printed sheet I used for backing would have made the whole thing far quicker and easier to assemble.

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Then it was just a matter of measuring (twice, of course) and cutting my fabric strips, backing them, and sewing the whole lot together. I didn’t take photos of the process, but essentially*:

  1. Measure the length of the frame from the top rung to the floor, then back up to the bottom rung  x the width of the inside of the frame. Add seam allowance on all sides PLUS 2 inches for fold-over at bottom edge. Cut this twice, hem 3 sides right sides together, turn and top-stitch the top edge, inserting ties/ribbons into either corner.
  2. Measure the drop from each rung to the rung below x width, add seam allowance and 2 inches for fold-over at the top edge, and cut two panels this size for each of the upper rungs (remember, the bottom run will already be accounted for). Again, hem three sides right sides facing, turn the right way, and top-stitch the top. It makes sense to top-stitch the top of the panel as this will be stitched over the bar.CIMG8695
  3. Assuming a 4-rung airer like mine, you now have one very long piece of fabric and three short panels. Taking the very long piece with ties at the top, pin the bottom hem over the bottom rung, fold an inch above the floor, and bring the backing up to the top rung, and tie at corners. Lie the whole thing flat, and use to position the bottom edge of each panel onto the backing, hanging down. Pin, remove ties and pins from bottom rung, then machine two rows of straight stitch ¼ inch apart to attach each panel.
  4. Tie top and fold and pin bottom once more, and fold each panel up over the above rung. Hand-stitch securely in place.

 *instructions assume only one fabric without a right way up – so no dinosaurs.

Ideally, you’ll want to mount this on a wall with hooks to secure each rung, allowing for even distribution of weight. As I said, this isn’t really an option in our house, but I am looking for a hinged wooden stand I can mount it on using pins to offer a sturdier base as the boys get older and more “hands-on”!

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And speaking of repurposed kids’ storage, I will DEFINITELY be copying this idea!